“That’s not a window – that’s a solar panel.”
At least, that’s what one might be able to say at some point, according to New Energy Technologies, Inc. The company is known for its development of see-through solar cells (which we’ve talked about before), and this week it’s just a little closer to making its almost invisible solar cells a production reality.
The new breakthrough involves the manufacturing technique the company uses. Working with the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, New Energy thinks it has figured out how to get material cost down and has also designed a new application technique. Said technique is supposed to raise the conversion efficiency of the finished product.
It’s Not So Hot In Here, After All
The most important part of the new process is that it doesn’t require high-temperature vacuum deposition, which is expensive and takes forever and is exactly what it says on the tin — depositing super thin layers slowly (molecule by molecule) at high temperatures in a vacuum. The new process works at low temperatures, meaning the company can produce its solar panels with both roll-to-roll and sheet-to-sheet manufacturing.
In other words, New Energy Technologies is a massive step closer to mass production. President and CEO John Conklin spoke briefly about the potential of his product as a whole:
“Over the past few months, our researchers have unveiled a virtually invisible conductive wiring system, which collects and transports electricity on SolarWindow™ prototypes, and have fabricated a large area working module, which is more than 14-times larger than previous organic photovoltaic devices fabricated at NREL. Earlier, we developed our first-ever working SolarWindow™ prototype using a faster, rapid scale-up process for applying solution-based coatings.
“Together, these achievements have moved us closer to our manufacturing, scale-up, durability, and power production goals — all important factors to advancing our SolarWindow™ technology towards commercial launch.”
Just So You Remember How It Works
The totally see-through solar windows involve super-thin solar cells layered onto glass. The cells are arranged in a network, and then each cell is connected to its fellows with more-or-less invisible wires. Electrons are knocked off their atoms and start moving, generating an electric potential difference, and the energy is converted into usable electricity (this part is fairly standard for solar cells; the neat part is that all the mechanisms are transparent).
New Energy also hopes the product’s shelf life will be improved with its recent discoveries, which would be good news for its customers. New Energy hopes to eventually get its product onto 85 million commercial and residential buildings in the United States.
Personally, I can’t think of a better place for solar panels than on the windows (I love windows, I mean, look outside!). What about you? Let us know in the comments, below.